Best Compact Travel Trailers
Teardrops, Pop-Ups, and Collapsable RV's
Recreational vehicles come in all shapes and sizes. Travel trailers, pop-up-type towables, and automotive tents are unique to this particular market.
Chief among these RVs are the venerable teardrop trailers. Teardrops, around for more than 70 years, are easy to tow, provide comfortable sleeping quarters, and are usually equipped with simple outdoor kitchens.
But there are also pop-ups that can be configured for sleeping, or to haul various toys, such as four-wheelers or kayaks. Along those same lines are hard-top rooftop tents — pop-ups sans wheels — that can be mounted on almost any vehicle, including a Mini Cooper.
And if you’re semi-handy using a screwdriver, it’s not difficult to assemble your own travel trailer — like the Tail Feather from Teal International, a startup kit manufacturer based in Colorado. “The largest segment of our market is retired RVers,” said Teal President Larry Drake. “A lot of them have had motorhomes or large camping trailers and are looking for something that is small and can be pulled by their cars.” Better yet, when you’re done using the Tail Feather, you can take it apart and store it in the garage.
Here’s a closer look at a few of these RVs that can only be classified as unique, small, and light.
Aliner claims its hard-wall camping trailers can be set up in as little as 30 seconds. Aliner, based in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, says its camping customers want to be setup in 30 seconds and then go for a hike. Forget TVs and generators; true outdoor enthusiasts will like the company’s hard-sided trailers with closed heights from 56 to 62 inches. Six floorplans are available ranging from 12 feet 8 inches to 18 feet. The 18-foot Expedition features an 11-gallon freshwater tank, a dry weight of 1,800 pounds and a gross vehicle weight rating of 3,000 pounds. Aliners feature the VersaDine Five-Way Dinette that seats four for comfortable dining, is a storage area when the trailer is being towed and folds down to a 40-by-80-inch bed. A wet bath or toilet in place of a storage cabinet (Expedition model only) is optional. An outside shower is standard on all models except the Scout.
James Baroud Rooftop Tents
No trailer? No problem. The James Baroud rooftop tent goes anywhere your car can go. James Baroud hard-top rooftop tents provide the advantages of a pop-up camper without having to pull a trailer. The tent assembly, which weighs less than 120 pounds, fits on any vehicle that is equipped with a roof rack. Assembled with canvas side walls and a fiberglass-fortified polyester shell that collapses when on the road, James Baroud tents are waterproof and can withstand winds of more than 70 mph, according to the manufacturer. In the travel mode, the James Baroud is only about 13 inches high and provides about 6 inches of clearance between the bed and rooftop to store sleeping bags, clothes and pillows.
Nostalgic looks and modern features are hallmarks of Little Guy teardrop trailers. If Little Guy Worldwide in Massillon, Ohio, hasn’t perfected the venerable teardrop trailer, it’s come close with 14 floorplans in widths of 4, 5 and 6 feet. Included are all-birch cabinets, a stove, a refrigerator and air conditioning. The retro Silver Shadow, in 8- and 10-foot lengths with a high-gloss Alufiber exterior, hearkens back to the 1930s when RVing was in its infancy. Little Guy teardrops, with the exception of the Silver Shadow, feature fiberglass side walls and all are equipped with a rubber torsion suspension, custom graphics and aluminum stone guards. Solid wood cabinets come in most models. Outdoor galleys are available in all but one floorplan and include outdoor lighting and a dedicated space to prepare meals.
Tent campers looking to move up to a folding camping trailer may want to scope out the all-aluminum pop-up by Livin’ Lite Recreational Vehicles. In box lengths of 6 feet to 10 feet that open up to double those lengths when in camping mode, the 10-foot Quicksilver’s dry weight is around 1,000 pounds and can be towed by almost any vehicle with an engine. The Quicksilver interior features aluminum cabinets along with a collapsible, convertible dinette that can be used indoors and outside, and is prepped for TVs, heaters or other electronic devices. For Jeep aficionados, there’s also a 6-foot Jeep-branded, trail-rated Quicksilver built with official Jeep fenders, bumpers, tires and taillights.
Ideal for active lifestyles, the SylvanSport GO can haul bikes, boats and even motorcycles. If the Swiss Army knife manufacturer made an RV, it might look like the multipurpose SylvanSport GO, which in its various configurations can be a pop-up camper, a toy hauler or a utility trailer. “Instead of a traditional RV we created outdoor gear that happens to have wheels on it,” said Kyle Mundt, director of marketing and new product development for the Brevard, North Carolina-based company. SylvanSport has outfitted the 13-foot GO with the Goal Zero: GO 400 Solar Power Kit, a compact, custom-designed system that lights up the trailer and powers electronics, fans and small appliances. It can also be used as a solar power system for base camps, cabins and as a backup for unexpected outages.
Fresh and fun, T@B Teardrop Trailers are available in multiple colors and floorplans. The European-designed T@B travel trailer (distributed by Little Guy Worldwide, Massillon, Ohio) is a diminutive 16-foot wonder with five floorplans that feature small indoor kitchens or rear outdoor galleys with sink/stove combinations and small refrigerators. The S-model floorplan even has a wet bath with shower. Since being acquired from Dutchmen Manufacturing in 2011, the T@B has been redesigned with an aluminum superstructure and white or silver EuroMax aluminum skin, trimmed in a choice of muted or bright colors including black, red, blue, yellow, orange or white. Interior features include hardwood birch cabinets, dual-pane windows, indoor/outdoor tables, hinged two-burner stoves, LED lighting and a 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC inverter with multiple outlets.
A screwdriver is all it takes to assemble the Tail Feather kit by Teal International. If you’ve got a couple of hours and you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can build your own RV with Teal International’s Tail Feather travel trailer kit. Each polyethylene piece — floor, side walls, roof, etc. — weighs less than 40 pounds, and when assembled comes in at less than 1,000 pounds dry weight. The Tail Feather fits on a 5-by-8-foot trailer, and when assembled, is 6 feet wide and 71/2 feet long with 6 feet 2 inches of headroom. It comes with a double bed and four-person dinette. “It’s designed to be assembled by one person with a screwdriver,” said Larry Drake, president of the Loveland, Colorado, manufacturer. Included removable cabinets are made of canvas, and windows can be moved around. Extra panels can be added to make it 10 feet long.